Thursday, May 25, 2017

Episode Review - Who Watches the Watchers

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here

Overview – The Enterprise is sent to Mintakan III to assist a three-man anthropological mission that are studying a primitive culture. When a mechanical malfunction disrupts the mission and it is observed by some Mintakans, the crew must try to set things right. In doing so, one of the Mintakans mistakes Captain Picard as a god, and now Picard must rectify the situation.

Liko discovers he is not alone

Score: 8/10 – This is a solid episode of storytelling. We see a little bit as to what it would be like for a less technologically advanced species to be introduced to the superior Federation. We are given a taste as to why the Prime Directive is so vital for space exploration. There is a good amount of action and intrigue, and the acting is great. This is one episode I would point to when I say that the third season of TNG is where the show really starts to shake off its training wheels from a rocky first couple seasons and gives us what Trek does best: tell good stories. Picard walks a difficult balancing act here, and it is a strong defining episode for his character.

Nuria meets "the Picard"

Relevance - 3 points. Lots that are tied into this episode. First, the procedure of memory wiping that was used by Doctor Pulaski in the previous season’s “Pen Pals” is used again here, only this time it is not effective. The events of this episode are referred to in a later episode “Allegiance”. We see Riker in his first of several undercover operations in a pre-warp civilization (although this one seems to go the best for him). Finally, the tapestry that the Mintakans give Picard at the end of the episode is seen in his ready room for the remainder of the series and most of the Next Generation movies.

This tapestry will be Picard's ready room for years to come

Continuity - 2 points. The characters all act as they should. There was one moment for Picard, when he shows Nuria her home planet from orbit, which is especially consistent with Picard’s character. He does this a few other times. In the movie “Insurrection”, Picard mentions that the first time he saw Earth from orbit was a significant experience for him, and he seems to enjoy giving others a similar experience. Universe continuity also score here. Where we see a problem with continuity is in the story part. When the duck blind is restored, a holographic projection of a rock face is created. Oji approaches where she saw the opening and touches the rock. Since this is not occurring on the holodeck, she should not have been able to touch the rock, and her hand should have passed through it.

Showing Nuria her home world

Character Development – 2 points. Definitely a strong Picard episode, and while other characters have things to do in the story, none go through the growth that the captain does. He works relentlessly to set things right again, knowing that the inadvertent interference of the observation team could be disastrous to the Mintakan culture. He even goes as far as risking his own life and being shot with an arrow to prove his point that he is not a god. This is where Picard shows his true strength of character, and thankfully his injury is only minor.

Arriving at the scene of the accident

Social Commentary – 2 points. So what commentary is being made in this episode? There is no doubt in my mind that this is a good episode with a great story, but I had to think long and hard about what the message was that we could take away from it. Likely the biggest message is the importance of not allowing yourself to be seen as a “god” in the eyes of those who may be in more humble circumstances. I think we can also appreciate a message of being responsible for your actions, even if the negative consequences were never your intention. Picard could have, justifiably, left Mintaka III with the away team and survey team members, not bothering to fix the confusion that he had caused. Too often we think that because we had good intentions, we should be absolved of responsibility when things take an unexpected turn. Not so with Picard.

The Mintakans have found Palmer

Cool Stuff – 1 point. I will give a point to the scene where Picard is willing to show how far he will go to prove his mortality. The scene where Liko, played brilliantly by Ray Wise, is tense, and we at home watching this for the first time all gasped when Picard flew backwards after being hit by the arrow. Lots about this episode is nice, but we are not given much else that would be considered “cool”.

Picard takes the arrow so the Mintakans can get the point.

Rank – Captain (18 points). I really believe that the third season of TNG is where the show really starts to find its stride. Yes, there are better seasons, but Season 3 really became a ground breaking time for Picard and company. “Who Watches the Watchers” is the first really strong episode that showcases this. Definitely in the Top Ten for this season, and highly recommended.

Troi and Riker as Mintakan traders

If you would like to read other reviews from the Next Generation, click this link.

If you would like to read an episode review from any of the Trek series, click the following link to get to the series catalog. If the episode you want reviewed has not been done yet, then feel free to request it in the comments and I will see what I can do. 

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